Top Travel Tips For A Smooth Vacation

View of a city through an airplane window

From long delays at the airport to squeezing everything in a carry-on bag, traveling has been getting more and more stressful these days.

Fortunately, we’ve gathered our top travel tips to help you get ready for your trip and take the headache out of traveling.

Whether you’re traveling for work or for pleasure, here are our favorite travel tips that you can use to prepare, get organized, and actually enjoy your trip.

Make a to-do list

When it comes to travel, there are so many different components to keep track of. Not only do you have to manage the logistical side, like booking flights, rental cars, and hotels, but you also have to keep track of your packing list, itineraries, TSA regulations, and all while having a fun and relaxing time.

In order to stay organized (and sane!) make a list of all the things you need to do before your trip. This way, you’ll get everything that’s floating around in your head down on paper. And when you write things down, you’re more likely to finish them.

Here’s what a sample travel to-do list can look like:

  • Check expiration date on passport and driver’s license
  • Book hotels
  • Make dinner reservations for first night
  • Buy toiletries
  • Buy new swimsuit
  • Arrange house sitting/pet care 
  • Download boarding pass

If you’re traveling overseas, you don’t want to leave your to-do list for the last minute. Give yourself at least a one or two month buffer, so that you have plenty of time to renew passports and manage other time-sensitive tasks if necessary. 

Review your travel documents–even if they haven’t expired yet

Speaking of passports, you’ll want to check your passport’s expiration date before even booking your international flights. 

Your passport may still have 1 or 2 months validity before the expiration date, but that doesn’t mean you’re in the clear. Many countries require that a passport be valid for a minimum of 6 months after you enter the country. So even if you still have a month left on your passport and are only planning on traveling for a week, you run the risk of getting denied entry. 

You don’t want to arrive at the airport only to be turned away at the counter. So make sure to check your passport’s expiration date as well as the passport and visa requirements for the country you are entering. If you are traveling to multiple countries, make sure to check their passport and visa requirements as well. 

Create a packing list 

Are you guilty of overpacking? Do you always forget an essential item at home? Then make a packing list to get everything in order. 

One or two weeks before your travel date, make a list of everything you need to bring. This way,  if you’re missing any items like a rain jacket or travel-sized toiletries, you’ll still have time to purchase them. So write down everything you plan to bring, including travel documents, toiletries, clothes, shoes, accessories, medication, etc.

In this interview, television travel host Samantha Brown offers a great packing tip. She likes to think about the different scenarios she’ll be in during her trip and then packs accordingly. 

For example, if you plan on doing lots of outdoor activities like hiking and biking, then you’ll want to make sure you have the right clothes and shoes on hand. If you don’t plan on going out to nice restaurants, then you probably don't need to pack your nice dresses or suits.

Not sure if you should check your bag or bring a carry-on? Brown likes to check her bag if she’s traveling for five days or longer. 

Use Google Maps offline

Another handy travel tip is to download a location on Google Maps and use it offline. This way, you can still navigate your location when you’re not connected to WiFi and don’t have to worry about using up your data. For instructions on how to save your maps offline, read this guide.

Check in with your bank and credit card company

The last thing you want when you travel is to get an alert from your bank that they’re freezing your account due to suspicious activity. 

It doesn’t matter if you’re traveling domestically or overseas, many banks will act out of caution if they perceive fraudulent activity and immediately freeze your account. 

So call your bank and credit card company in advance and let them know your exact travel dates and locations. Doing this ahead of time will save you a huge headache later on. 

It’s also probably a good idea to have some cash on hand. Although more and more places are going cashless, small bills will come in handy for smaller purchases and gratuity. 

Inquire about bank fees

And while you have your bank’s customer service rep on the phone, ask them about card fees. If you’re traveling internationally, you’ll want to learn about ATM and international transaction fees so you’re not caught off guard by additional charges later on. 

Always pack snacks

Parents already know how important it is to pack snacks for their young kids, especially if they want to use them as treats or to prevent meltdowns. 

But snacks aren’t just for the little ones either. Whether you’re going on a road trip or a short domestic flight, pack some snacks for yourself just in case you encounter any delays or closed shops.

Pack a scarf

Another top travel tip is to bring a lightweight scarf. It can act as a cover for chilly nights and plane rides. And it can also be used to wrap a fragile souvenir. 

Bring a travel journal

The best way to document your trip is to write it down in a notebook. While photos are always a nice way to remember your trip, they don’t always capture all the details and nuances. Bring a durable notebook with an elastic closure so you can keep everything in place, and store mementos like programs or receipts from your favorite restaurant. Later on, you can flip through your old travel journal entries and relive those amazing memories all over again. 

Wear slip-on shoes to the airport

Airport check-ins are never stress-free, but one thing that can make the process a lot smoother is slip-on shoes. I personally like to wear these sneakers with socks. This way, I’m not struggling with my shoelaces while also trying to move through a line and place my items in a security tray. 

With a little planning and organization up top, the rest of your travel should be smooth sailing.

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